Beyond the Moon
Catherine Taylor’s Beyond the Moon is a time travel romance where 1916 meets 2017. It’s very well written, but I need to start with a disclaimer: I haven’t read to its end.
The reason for this is the background setting where this love story is set – war and struggling for freedom from a psychiatric hospital. These are subjects for which I have strong feelings, though at the same time I don’t find either of them particularly interesting.
My motivation to write a review is thanks to the high quality of writing – though in some ways this is what is putting me off reading further!
Author Catherine Taylor paints the horrors of the First World War in the trenches through Robert’s eyes vividly – as well as the narrow-mindedness of the olden day upper classes in 1916. We’re also immersed in the struggles of Louisa who’s desperately trying to get out of a psychiatric hospital.
The good writing provokes strong reactions!
Boy 1 doesn’t like Boy 2. Boy 1 gets Boy 3 to hit Boy 4 otherwise Boy 1 hits Boy 3. Boy 4 will either be hit by Boy 2 for not wanting to hit Boy 3 back, or be hit by Boy 4. Boy 4 is hurt by Boy 3. Girl helps Boy 4.
Is this the school playground, or is it the basis of war?
I appreciate my freedom but I can’t connect with these activities and times that Soldier Robert experiences. Yet quite literally, main character Louisa does!
It’s not that it’s a psychiatric hospital that irritates me, but that her freedom is (wrongfully) taken away. It could also have been a prison setting for example. In the book The Planet of the Apes the main (human) character is held captive by apes. They test him for signs of mental ability. But the problem is that although he passes the tests, the results don’t offer the proof to the apes that there is intelligence. Their tests are poorly designed, and this is coupled to their inherent belief that humans can’t be intelligent.
It’s a similar case in Beyond the Moon where Louisa gives all the right answers to the questions she’s interviewed with, and yet the keepers of the home are unwilling to believe that she is healthy and she remains captive.
The Premise: A Combination
During an exploration of the psychiatric hospital gardens Louisa (2017) finds herself meeting Robert (1916). I’d hazard a guess that the ‘local’ time is 2017 because presumably Louisa would have noticed olden day surroundings – whereas Robert is blinded and doesn’t notice modern day furnishings.
As you might expect from the title (and cover), Beyond the Moon is a love story. (Actually it’s been shortlisted for the Eharmony/Orion Write Your Own Love Story Prize 2018!)
When I first read the description I couldn’t help thinking of the British sitcom “Goodnight Sweetheart” where a present day guy walks down a road and finds himself in World War 1 England. And the cheating married cretin falls in love (sic) with a local girl.
On the subject of being reminded of things, the novel kicking off with a blind main character reminded me of John Wyndham’s The Day of the Triffids.
(Aside: Why is John Wyndham not given enough credit as a sci fi writer? He’s done a lot more than The Day of the Triffids and The Midwich Cuckoos (the novel behind the movie “Village of the Damned”). The Trouble with Lichen and The Seeds of Time are well worth a read (and I should really get round to reviewing them…!)
Back to this novel
What is it about us humans that we keep going on about war – even travelling in time to do so?
Maybe it’s because war is an easy protagonist in an otherwise fairy tale love story (OK, apart from the time travel separation thing?) I think the real reason is the characters where such trials let us see their true mettle. For sure, we see that in Beyond the Moon!
Through Robert’s eyes we see the grim details of war. (Notice the sting that we first meet him when he’s blind…). This is an important point because he has first-hand knowledge which really comes to the fore when he talks to his family and their friends at home. He knows about the lies that are written to console relatives of the deceased, for example, and what large orders of tarpaulin made by the army really mean.
These people are living in times of war, yet they’re oblivious to the real horrors of it! We’re not! I wonder how many idiot politicians out there are just as oblivious to it when they send “Boy 3” and “Boy 4” to go out and kill each other…
The other fork in the novel is Louisa’s stay in the psychiatric hospital. Not that I’ve ever been in a prison or psychiatric hospital or anything (just a secondary school with a couple of very strict teachers), but I feel I can empathise in her desperation and frustration in her situation. Not in just where she is or in the miscomprehension of the people supposedly in charge (and by her fellow cohabitants) but also with the loss of control that she has.
I admit that these subjects in themselves aren’t my favourite to read about – but I think the way that they’re written about really makes them strike a nerve with me!
Rating * * * *
This reading experience is the opposite of what I encountered in reading Hanit Pahima’s The Keepers of the Black Cave. There I enjoyed the general story line, but not the writing. Here it’s the other way around – although to clarify – I like the premise but not the subject matter.
I read as far as about page 80; by this time I really had no interest in Louisa’s or Robert’s life.
Like with The Keepers of the Black Cave and my wanting to know more about the cave, here in Beyond the Moon I’d like to know more about the portal. Maybe that comes in the following pages but simply put, I didn’t want to invest any more time in wading through the interaction between Louisa and Robert lives to continue.
Apart from the initial encounter between Louisa in 2017 and Robert in 1916 naturally I didn’t come across much time travel. That said, there are some nice cross period links such as Louisa referring to Florence Nightingale. And I love this line:
P. Aubert & Co. Cognac 1915, the label read. Drinking history itself.
In the same way that I resisted giving a bad rating for The Keepers of the Black Cave because of the terrible editing it would also be unfair of me to penalise Beyond the Moon for my subjective dislike of a topic (enhanced by a nice writing style!).
Why not catch up with author Catherine Taylor and learn about her motivation to write Beyond the Moon on her blog.
You might also like to visit or like time2timetravel on Facebook.
| 5* Excellent! | 4* Good | 3* OK | 2* Not good | 1* Crud |